Detroit’s LocalData Wins Knight Foundation Funding
LocalData, a digital information-gathering and sharing platform born out of the work done by three Code for America fellows deployed to Detroit, has just been awarded funding from the Knight Foundation. The $300,000 grant was announced this week at San Francisco’s Online News Association conference as part of Knight’s News Challenge competition. Knight, along with the Kellogg Foundation, also funded Code for America’s work in Detroit.
“LocalData is a technology tool kit for communities,” says co-founder Matt Hampel. “We found lots of groups collecting information on paper, but it could take months to train volunteers, and then it took a long time to get the results processed. “
With the LocalData app, smartphone users can access survey questions by tapping a map and type answers directly into the app. For those who don’t have smartphones, LocalData developed a paper style with the same questions; those collecting the data fill in the appropriate bubbles and then scan them into the database. Hampel says that they soon hope to make it so the forms can be scanned in using a mobile phone’s camera. The data is then accessible online by volunteers through an easy-to-use dashboard.
LocalData has already tested its product in Detroit with a Wayne State University urban planning class that did a survey of properties in the commercial district surrounding the university. Hampel plans to move to Detroit in December to continue working on LocalData. Co-founder Alicia Rouault will be based out of Boston as she finishes an urban planning degree at MIT, and co-founder Prashant Singh will remain in San Francisco. Eventually, the group wants to expand LocalData to other cities and expand its impact.
What piqued Knight’s interest, Hampel explains, is that LocalData democratizes the information gathering process and empowers communities to manage their own data without the assistance of third parties. Plus, data infrastructure tools like LocalData will help journalists and other interested parties monitor their community’s data. “What’s really cool is we take something complicated and make it easier,” he adds. “You don’t need expensive consultants anymore.”